Hey everyone! So I returned home the night of Friday, April 21st. I must have slept the weekend away because here it is already Monday. Is it too early to begin planning my next vacation?
I had a fantastic time in Italy and am so proud of myself for embarking on my adventure alone and living to tell the tale.
I was in Rome, Florence, Venice, and Siena. Out of all of these cities I enjoyed Siena the most. I'd suggest buying a good pair of hiking boots for times when you become lost in any of the above cities (all four for me...oops...directionally challenged). In Rome, I managed to get lost walking from the Coliseum back to my hotel...three hours, 30,000 steps and 12 miles (according to my fit bit) later I finally reached my hotel. I was in agony. It should have only taken me 30 minutes. My GPS decided it didn't know where I was...I did stop for gelato while I was lost. :-)
In regards to the bus from Florence to Siena...I'm going to say the opposite of what others have said. Don't do it! Take the train! Coming back from Siena we left at 4:40 pm but because of traffic we didn't get back to Florence until 7:00 pm which caused me to miss my 7:08 pm train back to Rome. I had to purchase another ticket because my business class ticket was non-refundable.
Everyone must eat a cioccolato croissant and espresso at Cafe Italiano Via Calabria, 14, Roma. So freaking good and lots of locals.
Italy does not shut down for Easter. Easter was a great time for me to go albeit a bit busy. Lines were long.
I'd suggest buying tickets for museums, etc. you are for sure going to that may have large lines from what you've read and then wait to reserve other places of interest for when you arrive. I didn't go to some things I'd bought tickets for because I was either tired or I'd found other places I'd like to see more.
Customs is a breeze and shouldn't scare anyone! I brought back Pecorino Cheese and alcohol and claimed both so that there'd be no issues...and I paid no duty...also, I was only asked if I'm carrying more than $800 worth of stuff back and I wasn't so I said no. They don't care what you have unless it's over $800, at least from Italy. I was not asked for my cell phone as all of the rumors say that customs is doing. Can you imagine checking thousands of cell phones a day? That'd take forever. We were like an assembly line. In AND out; in AND out...one after the other.
All in all, I had a fantastic adventure. It was a trip of a lifetime but I hope to make it only the first trip of a lifetime...I will be back!
EDIT: I forgot to mention that I followed Rick's advice on how to get to St. Peter’s Basilica from the Sistine Chapel: I went through the door that states Tours Only. No one monitors it. It was a Godsend. There was no way I was going to wait in another line. I could barely walk at this point (I have a bad back and bad legs and had been on my feet all day). I was in so much pain but I was determined to see the Basilica. So I totally recommend trying it. I figure if someone stops you, then just nod and turn away…what are they going to do? In my case, nothing. I saw the Pieta, which evoked such emotion. I lit a candle. I sat my aching body down and reflected.